Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evangelization for the Timid

I've been thinking lately about my duty to evangelize. In the past I have always left evangelization to people who are gifted with words. Me, I get tongue tied. I get shaky. I allow fear of rejection to keep me from speaking my heart about the church. Even within my marriage, I find myself mute. My husband dislikes hearing about anything pertaining to religion.  My faith gives me such joy that I hope someday to share it with him, but I find myself censored a lot of the time. I know that the Lord is using the situation within my marriage and elsewhere in my life to teach me to find my contentment in Christ alone. Fortunately the Church has given me some sisters in heaven in whom I can draw courage and inspiration!

Saint Faustina was often pained because when she told people about her visions people became suspicious and snide towards her. She sometimes was afraid to follow the directions that Jesus gave to her because of this fear of being made a fool of. Eventually she was counseled thus by her spiritual director, "Sister, God is preparing many special graces for you, but try to make your life as clear as crystal before the Lord, paying no attention to what anyone else thinks about you. Let God suffice you; He alone."  (Notebook 1, 55). Later she was also told, "Sister, let simplicity and humility be the characteristic trait of your soul. Go through life like a little child, always trusting, always full of simplicity and humility, content with everything, happy in every circumstance. There, where others fear, you will pass calmly along, thanks to this simplicity and humility." (Notebook 1, 55). As I read this and underlined it a week ago I thought, "huh, that's true" and carried on.

Then I watched a movie about St. Hildegard of Bingen. St. Hildegard was a mystic in the Church who had visions and locutions from Jesus and who eventually ordered her to build a monastery for the sisters apart from the men's order, despite the conventions at the time and against the will of the Abbot of her order. As I watched and saw St. Hildegard being reviled by religious authorities and called a heretic, I literally said out loud, "thank God I'm not a mystic!" I have to chuckle now not only because this is the opposite reaction we as Christians are supposed to have toward great spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), but because in essence we are all called to be missionaries in the church and will all be persecuted in one way or another for being followers of Christ! A fear of being made a fool of has to be relinquished. We must learn to find contentment in Christ alone to be truly evangelistic. 

It seems a tall order for me, as I've always been a bit of a people-pleaser. I find myself constantly seeking approval from other people, especially my husband! Now that my husband definitely does NOT approve of my faith and in the past has made it difficult for me to be a Catholic (snide remarks, etc.) I have really begun to challenge myself to find contentment in Christ regardless of Oliver's disapproval of me. This has stretched me to realize that I have been hiding my light under the bushel basket, so to speak, to others as well. I have been guilty of not speaking because I don't have all the answers, unintentionally thinking that my words rather than the Holy Spirit will be responsible for reaching that particular person. I have shut my mouth in the belief that God could not use me as an imperfect vessel. What a limiting mind-set. 

My job as a Christian is to plant the seeds, not have all the answers! Pope Francis says it well in Evangelii Gaudium: 

"God's word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking." 

This realization has already encouraged me to engage in a little apologetics this past weekend. Can't say I won an argument or anything, but I stepped out in a way that I haven't before. It also has me questioning my decision to approach Advent veiling in a completely inconspicuous way. Am I doing so only to avoid the questioning gazes of other people? Perhaps I should rethink that one and actually wear an obvious veil. To be honest, I'm questioning my motivation in almost everything. SO MANY of my "in what I have done and what I have failed to do" decisions come from my insecurity with its drive to gain approval of others regardless of my duty toward God.

"Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sin of Invisibility

Every time I pray the Sorrowful mysteries of the rosary I am particularly inspired by the carrying of the cross. I think of Simon of Cyrene who was forced by soldiers to help Jesus along his way to crucifixion. Simon shows me the compassion that I lack, my sin of always shrinking back when I should be coming forward.

My parents raised us to believe that privacy and independence are the highest ideals to aim for, and even now that I know this is not true I have the tendency to live as though I still believe that it is. I find a way to become invisible everywhere I go in the interest of minding my own business. This is clearly not the ideal in the Christian life. We have to carry our own crosses as well as those of our neighbor. It's about communion and community. We're meant to mind each other's business!

When I live the ideal of independence I refuse to carry my neighbor's cross. I also refuse to allow them to carry mine. I live in a little bubble and keep up appearances. As a Christian I should be wearing my bleeding heart on my sleeve. I should be open and plain about my hardships. I should feel compassion and not be afraid to reach out and rejoice or weep with others. I should offer up sacrifices for others. I should speak clearly and loudly words of encouragement, building others up and thinking not of myself.

At the same time, I have to live as though I believe that others care about me. It's difficult for me to express my opinion, reach out to others, or even express my esteem and admiration for people because I don't always believe that others care to hear from me. It's a script that runs through my head if I let it: no one cares. No reason to call my friends on the phone. No reason to comment on blogs or express a kind word online. No reason to invite someone to visit me, or show up to visit someone else. My initial belief is that to do any of those things would be an imposition on that person because I am intruding on that person's privacy and independence. My parents would complain if someone called them just to talk, or came over just to visit. So I just internalized the belief that I shouldn't do those things. As a Christian I have come to learn that it's not weak or disordered for my heart to crave fellowship with other people! It seems like an obvious  part of human life, but I had to learn it. God is always after me with His hammer and chisel!

The humility of Jesus comes out in the carrying of the cross. I am reminded that Christ, the eternal Word, allowed a human being a share in his burden. As God he could have come down from the cross to save himself. He could have carried the cross alone. He didn't. He allowed himself to be crucified by his creatures out of love for them, and perhaps he allowed Simon to share in his suffering also out of love. When we allow others to share our burdens we also give them the opportunity to step out of themselves and grow in holiness.

I am so grateful to be Catholic. We have such an awesome examples of community in the Church. Not only to we have recourse to God himself, but we can also associate with our brothers and sisters in heaven, the saints. With our mother, Mary. With other members of the Body of Christ. We all have our part to play. Humility for me at this time consists in actually living as though I am loved and that there is a particular place for me in the Body along with all of the other members.

I've been making an effort lately to live visibly. That means making more eye contact with people, offering encouragement, building up my husband, viewing others with an eye to how I can bless them instead of the other way around. Making more of an effort to pray for others. Participating more in the online Catholic community. I'm starting to feel like one aspect of this journey to be visible is to participate in the Veil Project without the element of deliberate inconspicuousness. I'm feeling called to wear an obvious veil.

Monday, November 25, 2013


It just hit me this morning as I made a rookie parenting mistake that I could be a lot happier in life if I started expecting myself to make mistakes. This is so obvious to other people. The beautiful thing about the Christian life is that the Lord takes each person with all their imperfections and creates lessons tailored for that individual. That's what He's doing for me. I have always been stuck in this mire of people-pleasing. I have been so guilty of trying to look perfect so that people would think that I was smart and successful. I have been guilty of making mistakes and then trying to hide the mistake. I have been guilty of thinking that people would not love me if I wasn't perfect and then striving to present that image at all costs. What time I have wasted!

I mentioned before that I thought that God was calling me into the teaching profession. People have asked me over and over for years, "are you going to be a teacher?" I've always responded with a horrified, resounding NO WAY, JOSE. I took steps into that process this September and have surprisingly enjoyed learning about the job. It is so interesting to me the way the human mind works and the way in which a teacher can do particular things to help the kids learn more easily. I love that teachers have a creative job which constantly changes. It doesn't seem like it could ever be boring. I've been doing the work of becoming a teacher with the massive burden of fear on my shoulders of, "can I do this? Will I make a mistake? Will I be a failure? Can I even find a job?"

The revelation I received unbidden as I was driving instantly provided me with a beautiful peace. Of COURSE I will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I just made the mistake doing something that I've been doing every day for 9 months. I would still call myself a good mother despite the mistakes I've made along the way. The mistake doesn't define me. The danger is making mistakes and not learning from them. Here are the top mistakes that I have given too much power to in the last 5 years:

1. Leaving the Appalachian Trail after only 204.5 miles. I felt like a failure for that for so long, but really I made it 204.5 miles! I trusted people like I've never trusted people before, and my departure meant that I chose my husband above the selfish desire to prove to myself that I could do it!

2. I went on 4-5 librarian job interviews and did not get hired. For a long time this made me feel like an unworthy, incapable person. I finally had to admit that the reason I kept failing was because I really had no desire to get the job. I still read librarian job descriptions and find myself saying, "ew". Maybe this was a huge indicator that the library route is not for me, or possibly that school librarian is in my future.

I am making a commitment to myself at this moment to no longer allow these mistakes to define me as a "failure". Fear of making mistakes has frequently kept me from trying new things. I hope to model myself after St. Peter in the future: acting without fear of looking foolish or making a mistake, being humble enough to admit when I do make a mistake and keeping my eyes fixed on Christ to keep me afloat during the difficult moments.

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew. - St. Francis de Sales

Saturday, November 23, 2013


"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Isn't it strange how even in the most trying times there are things to be thankful for? Even in the very circumstances that we so fervently pray would change. Lately I am so thankful for the gift of a tough marriage. If everything had been smooth sailing all the way through, I might never have become aware of the God-shaped hole in me and become a Christian. Given, I have prayed many times since then that things would get better. They have gotten better in every instance in which I sought to change MYSELF and not my husband. I still do find myself besought by loneliness because I long for someone in the household to share all of these beautiful Catholic things with...and in those times I have to find my consolation in Jesus.

I know that God is working in my marriage, but I must learn to abandon myself to His will. Maybe he is using this circumstance for our greater good. He already has. My job is just to trust, pray and rejoice! 

At least one funny circumstance that I take comfort in is that O and I were married in a Catholic church by a Protestant minister while we were both anti-religious! It's so funny how things work out. I now go to the same church as a Catholic. Jesus was right behind us in the tabernacle witnessing our wedding and we didn't even know it! God is so good!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Favorites

My last couple of posts have been a little dour, so here's some of my favorites to lighten it up!


I almost never listen to pop radio so I am not too familiar with the original song, but I love this re-make. The sad clown is perfect and I can actually identify with the message.

The 'One Thing' Is Three

I've been slowly making my way through The 'One Thing' is Three by Father Michael Gaitley and let me just say--it's fantastic! The thing I love about Fr Gaitley's writing is that he explains these heavy mysteries in a way that a distracted person with a short attention span can understand. At first I was a little put off by the conversational style of the book, but it turned out to be very beneficial because Fr. Gaitley says, "Remember....?" just when I need to be refocused.

Sourdough Starter

I recently pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge after months and months of disuse and discovered that it was pretty much dead. Womp, womp, wooooooomp. When I started that one I used regular bread yeast. I've now convinced myself that using regular bread yeast isn't hard core enough, and yet the old fashioned way of setting the dough on the counter and just waiting for any old wild yeast to come make its home in it doesn't appeal to me either. I've read that often a sourdough starter will not attract a good-tasting yeast and you have to start over again. LUCKILY a man named Carl Griffith kept a handed-down sourdough starter from 1847 when his family traveled the Oregon Trail. Even more luckily, you can send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Carl's friends and they will send you some of that starter. As a kid who played the Oregon Trail tirelessly on the computer, this is a dream come true. I haven't requested my starter yet, but it's definitely on my to-do list! 

Flip Diaper Covers

I use Flip diaper covers with pre-folds almost exclusively with my Lillian and have always been super happy with how they performed. I can't say that I've compared them with anything other than Thirsties covers, and I liked those as well. The only reason my Flips get my highest recommendation is that my Lilly has grown out of the Thirsties and I've found that for my money that Flips have been a better investment. I use disposables at night and sometimes when traveling and have found them to be almost useless in the face of runny breastmilk poo under pressure. That was gross, but yeah. My prefolds and covers work wonders with that, especially when I do a jelly roll fold!

Mexican Coke

I love to get my hands on a Mexican coke because these are made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. They also come in a glass bottle which has a cap that you need to use a bottle opener to remove. It feels like a real luxury every time I drink one. Especially with salty popcorn. I also like to use the empty bottle for a vase! 

Thanks for reading!

Back to Moxie Wife for more favorites!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pre-Advent Veiling

Well, not exactly a veil. A covering. A slouch tam, to be exact. The benefit of the tam is that it's soft, comfortable and the baby can't rip it off my head. That's what I wore to Mass yesterday.

I thought of another reason why I feel called to cover, a nuance of the humility reason. Today I feel a little discouraged. My heart yearns to have a spouse who I can share every aspect of my life with, especially faith. Who loves and accepts me as I am now: a Catholic woman. My husband loves me in spite of my conversion. But he would never choose me this way.

I keep coming up against that same longing again and again. Maybe my need to feel accepted by him has become an idol in my life. Covering my head in humility at Mass reminds me that ultimately my life is not my own, I was bought at a price. Despite the struggle it entails, I have to surrender my plans and go with His. Ultimately it's an acknowledgment that He is the Lord of my life. My husband might never come to faith or accept my faith. I have to do my duties without resentment in abandonment to His will, trusting that Jesus will give me the grace to be patient, kind and forgiving. I also need to honor and respect my husband now and love him for who he is, recognizing his limitations and also recognizing every positive thing about him without letting this one deficiency cause me to lose hope.

I surrender.

The veil has come to symbolize my efforts to give up my controlling ways. To this end, I do sometimes cover when I'm at home when I need an extra reminder of that resolution. I love how Quaker Jane sums up her reasons to cover as I found the exact same thing was true with me. As I give up control and allow my husband to lead, he feels respected and more powerful and secure in the relationship. If I let him have a voice in my faith, then he feels less threatened by it. As I witness Oliver judiciously making good decisions for our family I begin to have more trust, respect and esteem for him. We all benefit from my surrender.

This puts me in mind of the obedience required by nuns to their Mother Superior. I have sometimes thought of my home as my cloister. It makes sense that I learn to submit to my husband in light of St. Paul's exhortation to wives in Ephesians 5:22-24. I have come to realize that it's my responsibility to do as God asks me. I have to faithfully submit to my husband regardless of whether my husband holds up his end of the bargain. I have to leave his faith between him and God, even though sometimes it pains me to keep my mouth shut.

In being obedient to my vocation I am surrendering myself to God's will as laid out in Scripture. Part of that surrender has been relinquishing my vision of what my life as a Catholic woman would look like. I have treasured in my heart the idea of welcoming children as they come, staying at home to raise them and possibly even homeschooling. I am now starting to let go of those preconceived notions. My husband wants me to work outside the home so that we can get debt free. He wants only 2 or 3 children. Ultimately I can express my desires to him, but I have to be open to the possibility that he will say "no". I have to accept that answer as though it comes from God himself, and trust that if God has other plans then He will work on my husband's heart.

In these difficult moments I must choose to be joyful and look to Mary and admire her courage and quiet strength despite the sword that pierces her heart. And just look at that humble veil, too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Love and Hate in this Yard of Mine

--- 1 ---
Lately I have felt resolved to work with nature in my yard instead of against it. I am trying to get rid of plants that require too much water and attention. They always look terrible because I have the tendency to kill plants, so only the tenacious ones survive. The ones we have in the front yard that have done well are xeriscaped Texas natives. I prayed the rosary outside today after I finally (!) located one of my lost rosaries. I adore the ecosystem of my yard. I live on a half acre in the country in South Texas. As I prayed in the cool air (finally, again!) I could hear the clicking of grasshopper wings, see tons of furry caterpillars inching around, watched a lizard walk the tight-rope that is the top of my wire fence. There were birds chirping. Notes of a wind-chime clamoring in another part of the yard. Even the glorious lushness of the unwanted weeds were beautiful to me today. Fall is the best!
--- 2 ---
I have an idea about how I want my yard to look. When I lived in Castroville, Texas many people had yards in a particular European style that seemed characteristic to that city more than any other. The city was colonized by Alsatian immigrants and still actively maintains that Alsatian charm. Many people live in the old historic homes of the settlers and the whole set-up is just charming! Picture flower vines, butterflies, brambles, sprawling nature. Tendrils. Spineless cactus. Mexican sage. Coral vine. Herb gardens. Lantana. Mountain laurel. Confederate jasmine. Pecan trees. Oak. Here is a picture I took a couple of years really doesn't do justice to what I'm talking about because it was taken in February. I still live about 15 miles from C-ville, so I drive around for inspiration whenever I am in the area!
--- 3 ---
A few weeks ago I checked out a book from the library:
This book is so fascinating! I've never been all that interested in entomology but it's so neat to learn about all of the local insects that I've always found so common that they were boring. Having lived within a limited geographical area all my life, it's refreshing to have an interest in what I have instead of indulging my wanderlust that cannot be satisfied. The best part of the book is that it tells you what different bugs eat, how they are beneficial to our native environment. It has kept me from killing certain insects, that's for sure. The author even has an affinity for insects that people would normally consider troublesome because they eat the even-peskier pests. That really speaks to the spirit in me that wants to appreciate the interconnectedness of all of God's creatures. Did you know wasps eat the web worms that love to make a mess of pecan trees? Did you know mud daubers love black widow spiders? Scorpions eat cockroaches? If you can't keep them out of your kitchen, at least there's that!
--- 4 ---
My hubby and I have been watching this show on Netflix called Call of the Wildman. I was hesitant to watch it because at first glance it looks like more junk Southern reality TV, but I have found it *highly* entertaining. Ernie Brown, Jr. rescues animals that are infringing on human habitation and relocates them to other locations. He catches them with his bare hands. Raccoons. Skunks. Possums. Snakes. His specialty is catching giant snapping turtles. Right out of the water. As if that weren't enough, everyone on the show seems so genuine, kind, and not in it for the money.
--- 5 ---
Unfortunately we have had critter trouble at our house lately, and we were not able to use kind Turtle Man's methods. We had chickens taken from our coop one night and eventually the predator came back for more. I truly wish we could have trapped and relocated this coyote but ultimately we resorted to frontier justice. I feel regrets about the whole entire matter. I also miss my favorite hen, Ginger and her companion Red Sonya. The yard has felt somewhat lonely without the bold and friendly hens around. We haven't had eggs in a couple of weeks, either. The other ladies seemed deeply disturbed by their nighttime visitor but are doing well now.
--- 6 ---
We have pecans this year! I am excited about the prospect of homemade pecan pie created with my very own pecans. The down side is that we have native pecan trees in our yard which produce very small pecans that are a little tough to crack. The upside is that they taste slightly different from their commercialized cousins and possess a slightly maple-like flavor. Delicious! The crucial thing I learned about pecan pie last year was this: check your brown sugar! I cannot emphasize that enough. I follow a recipe that uses real sugar rather than corn syrup. I found out last year that the life of your pie depends on you using LIGHT brown sugar rather than dark. This is directly opposite of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe whose chewiness relies on your using DARK brown sugar. After a cookie debacle I demonized light brown sugar in my head. It was prejudice. And it was wrong.
--- 7 ---
I have recently cultivated an intense hatred of bermuda grass. I know I am not alone. The stuff barely grows in my yard but won't stay out of my flower beds. And no, I do NOT give my flowerbeds any special treatment. No extra water. No fertilizer. Nothing. Its only motive is to antagonize me. I have also decided recently that I'm going to stop weeding it from my flower beds. I will just fill these beds with tenacious Texas plants that can withstand a good weed-eating. Something with a woody trunk. That'll show 'em. Such is life in my little cloister. For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veiling and Testimony

I spoke before about how I planned to cover my head during Mass as a devotion during Advent. I listed a couple of reasons there for doing so, but it just occurred to me that those reasons that I gave seem a little shallow and that I'm once again guilty of not expressing my true heart in the matter because of my habit of always keeping things light. All I have to give in this vineyard is my testimony and I have held back!

Truly, the reason that I feel called to veil myself during Mass is that I feel so wonderfully grateful for God's mercy to me. I am humbled that he would appear before me in the image of the Blessed Sacrament. I am humbled that he would stoop so low to deal with me at all, preserving me from death and drawing me ever closer to the Truth. Imagine! Despite my sinfulness! All of this gratitude has poured out of me especially since focusing my devotion on Divine Mercy. I am astounded by the Lord's great mercy! That's what I meant when I said before that I want to veil as an act of humility. Let me tell you about God's mercy toward me.

As a teen I abandoned Christianity without too much thought. I didn't understand the faith. My understanding in middle school was about what you would expect a 4 year old to know. I assumed that the faith really was that simple and people only believed it because they were afraid of Hell. I was seeking something real, something that I could relate to and understand. That's how I tumbled into Paganism. Specifically Wicca, at least for awhile. I thought it made sense on a natural level. At its core modern Paganism relies on the underlying assumption that there is one Supreme Being who human beings are incapable of understanding. Different religions are simply different facets or ways of understanding this God. Pagans seek to understand God through observation and celebration of nature. The moon and its cycles, the sun, fertility, harvests, solstices, equinoxes, earth, air, fire and water. Femininity and masculinity. There was magic and spells, too, but for me the initial draw was the yearning to know and understand God.

I didn't think that anyone would accept me with my new beliefs so I hid them. I cloaked myself in cynicism, believing that Christians were hostile and bigoted. What I never realized was that in doing so I was bigoted. I was hateful. I was selfish. I assumed the worst of everyone to protect myself from being hurt. I think the cynicism was the most damaging effect of the Paganism. Even after I started calling myself a Deist (Paganism Lite) I still couldn't shake it. I was defensive. Christians would give me Bible tracts on campus and I would look at them, mock them and throw them away. I was right and there was nothing you could do to change my mind on that.

The first event that shook me out of my comfortable little cocoon was that I got into a car accident back in 2005 or 2006. I was driving down the highway at 70 mph and a vehicle in the lane to the right of me started merging into me. My reflex was to swerve out of the way. When I did that, my car hit the grass in the median and I lost control. The car was winding wildly like a snake left and right and eventually headed toward the oncoming traffic on the other side of the highway. There was no divider, just open grass. It seemed miraculous to me at the time that my car was stopped suddenly, hit on the empty passenger's side by a light pole. I was bruised, but not injured. I seriously felt like someone had controlled my car to hit at just the right spot. Everything my mom had ever told me about guardian angels as a child came back to me and I started to wonder whether God preserved my life. Such a thing would have been an act of real power by a God that actually cares. Not like the unconcerned god of Deism or the do-whatever-you-want gods of Paganism. A god who has a will. A personal God, like God the Father of Christianity.

God could have let me die in that sorry state. I would probably have been Hell bound! I am so grateful that He loved me too much to leave there at that moment. He saved me, and He didn't stop working on me, chiseling away my walls and defenses ever since then, leading me back to the rest of his flock. He really was gentle and meek to me, leading with kindness and of course, great mercy. I didn't deserve anything that He did for me.

I suppose that is ultimately what I meant when I named this blog Seeking Ewe. My name is Rachel, meaning ewe. I was seeking God, but He sought me first. All I can do is share this measly testimony and heartily rejoice with Mary in Scripture:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
The humility of veiling, for me, is an acknowledgement of my status as a simple "lowly servant" who relies utterly on his grace and who rejoices in his great mercy. It's something that I want to wear not because I am holy, but because I am a sinner. The reasons I mentioned before are true, as well, but above is the heart of the matter.

I will soon be participating in an veiling-for-Advent link-up with Tiffany @ Life of a Catholic Librarian and Cristina @ Filling My Prayer Closet which I providentially found out about after I had already decided to practice this devotion. Our God is good, is he not?! If anyone reads this, think about joining us!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Consolation and Desolation

I picked up a copy of Divine Mercy in My Soul last week. It was sitting longingly on the shelf at Half Price Books just waiting for my little grasping hand. The other hand held a baby and a 40% off coupon, so clearly I came out ahead on that one!

When I set myself the task of reading the Diary I thought I would have to force myself to read it. I was absolutely not prepared to looking forward to reading it every day! When I heard about St. Faustina in the past I never felt I could relate to her. I thought she was just too far above me, and there is so much I still don't understand about the Christian life. As I read her diary now, I can see that she is just like me. Probably like all of us.

Faustina rode the waves of consolation and desolation. I always thought the saint was so holy and sure, but between consolations she doubted her visions. She was unsure what to believe. She was afraid of what others thought of her. She was afraid to do the Lord's will because she knew others would question her sanity. She was so very human.

I struggle with the same thing. I don't receive visions. I don't receive locutions. During times of consolation and prayer I do receive feelings of peace in what I think is confirmation of the Lord's will. Then when the high of consolation ebbs away I doubt it all! I question my sanity! I have to ask myself whether I just imagined it all! On  top of that, sometimes I am afraid to act because I don't want to have to explain my reasoning to others and I sometimes think that God's will is crazy!

Right now I'm in a time of desolation. During consolation I felt like God was calling me to become a teacher. I started taking classes and steps to get my teacher's certification. If you know me, that is absolutely insane. I am introverted and shy. I can barely speak in front of groups of adults. I am not a great planner. I'm spontaneous. I've never been good at controlling kids (classroom management). I've never had the least bit of interest in teaching. I have a Master's in Library Science. What the heck am I doing, right? Exactly. Those are desolation thoughts! I keep questioning this decision. Did I just imagine it all?

I really couldn't say right now. But I learned about consolation and desolation in Fr. Mitch Pacwa's book How to Listen When God is Speaking and a rule during times of desolation is to stay the course that was set during consolation. So I move forward, and so did Faustina.

I thought more about this this morning as I prayed the rosary while pushing my stroller at the park. The park has a circular track all the way around. Today was exceptionally windy so as I walked one side of the track the wind was behind me, encouraging my forward progress. On the other side the wind was raging against me. The easy side reminded me of consolation and the difficult side desolation. On the desolation side of the track the wind could be seen as the force of discouragement from dryness in prayer, distractions or just all-out difficult situations which make it difficult to pray or proceed in God's will. As I walked along battling the wind, I could see consolation ahead and so I buckled down, put my shoulder into it, and made my way forward praying all along. It has to be the same way in the Christian life when you can't see the consolation coming. My guess is that it becomes even more crucial that we persevere in prayer during those times.

St. Faustina has reminded me that even holy saints have gone through the same ebb and flow, and that it's possible to remain faithful throughout. She gives me great hope! I just have to trust in Jesus to lead the way through!

As an aside, in a previous post I mentioned the way St. Faustina kept popping up in my life before I had any interest in her. I just discovered one more! St. Faustina was approached by Jesus in the image of Divine Mercy on February 22. My daughter "little Faustina" was born on February 22. I went into labor early that morning with my lit Divine Mercy candle by my side. I so love the sisterhood of the saints!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Knitting Berets

I started knitting a beret yesterday. I haven't knit a stitch in about two years, so you can imagine the weighty situation which called me out of hibernation. Hopefully the current beret won't turn out like this unfortunate creation that I fought with in 2009 and then never wore. Anyway...

I really hate this hat...
I've been thinking lately about covering my hair at Mass as a devotion during Advent (though I will likely start early). There are a number of reasons that want to practice this devotion, and all come back to Christ as the impetus in some roundabout way. The first is that I'm hoping this act of humility will help me be more reverent at Mass even when I'm fighting the distractions caused by my wiggly 8 month old. The second is that I'm hoping it will be a reminder (not necessarily at Mass) to be respectful of my husband as the head of our household. Also, the Bible and stuff. Even if St. Paul's directive for women to cover their heads was a cultural discipline, I still think it's a lovely thing to do.

The problem is I'm not sure that the veil or mantilla is the way I want to step into this devotion. The parish I go to isn't liberal, but it's not the most reverent. Example. Last Sunday during Mass our priest stopped the liturgy in the middle of the consecration, came down the aisle and ogled at a baby that was crying in the pew. After a few moments of distraction, Mass resumed. Now, I don't want to stop going to this parish. I go there because people are friendly and our priest is very welcoming and encouraging of children and babies at Mass. Not the kind of place where someone would give you and your crying baby the stink eye. It's a very life-affirming parish, but as an introverted convert it doesn't always have the reverence that I would like. I don't think any women wear veils except Hispanic grannies who don't speak much English. I think wearing beautiful lace would be a distraction to others and GREAT BIG attraction for my Lillian's grabby little hands. So I'm trying to think of some ways to cover my hair in a way that will not draw attention to myself.

Last Sunday I wore a scarf tied daintily around my head. This Sunday I think I may wear a slouchy tam that my aunt crocheted for me. But ultimately, my plan is to make a few different berets to wear with different outfits. That pink monstrosity above just doesn't cut it. I would really like to make a black beret, but I don't have black in my dusty yarn stash. So it's sage green for me!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Catholic Radio: a Conversion Story

I am a Guadalupe Radio Network convert. That statement is not that much of an oversimplification. I've listened and read lots of conversion stories and it seems that when God works in someone's life to bring them into his Church he uses so many avenues to do so. But my main avenue was Catholic radio.

So this is what happened.

The preface is that I was a Pagan, and then a Deist. I used to pray to the Goddess, but over time I began to sense emptiness there. I started praying to Almighty God, the Christian conception of God, even though I didn't really believe in the Bible and thought Christians were just stupid or brainwashed. When I prayed to God the Father I felt like there was someone on the other end of the line.

I could sense the emptiness in my life and needed answers. I thought I would be a Quaker. It would be an easy transition from Deism to Quakerism. Deists believe that God designed the universe and then stepped back to let it run on its own. God doesn't care about human affairs, he is not a personal God. I realized that wasn't true. Quakers, even liberal Quakers, believe in a single all-pervasive God who speaks in a still, small voice. Some Quakers on the conservative end believe in Scripture and Jesus. Liberal Quakers are more apt to pick and choose nuggets of wisdom between different religions or none at all. So I thought I'll just be a liberal Quaker. Easy peasy.

At some point during this time I got in the habit of listening to talk radio during the day. In my apartment I could not get any AM stations, so I would listen to NPR, 89.1 FM. Some days NPR came in really well, and other days I got mostly static. One day I was kneading bread by hand in the kitchen and my NPR suddenly landed on a Jesus station. I would have tried to re-adjust the channel, but my hands were doughy and I just kept listening to it. Eventually I realized that this was a Catholic channel, 89.7 FM.

The station challenged my assumptions.. I thought all Catholics were somewhat indifferent about their Faith, hadn't done any investigation into other possibilities, and just carried on practicing the religion they were raised in for fear of Hell. Catholic evangelization just seemed an oddity.

I heard a lady talking about a book she wrote about becoming Catholic after years of being raised as a Jehovah's Witness. That caught my curiosity because my husband was raised as a JW. She talked about how the Our Father was so important in her life. I had never heard of someone converting to be a Catholic before. I didn't know what to make of that. What I did know was that I liked hearing positive things on the radio, so I would listen often. I started off listening to mainly the counseling shows, the Popcaks and Dr. Ray. Then I would listen to whatever shows were on when I got into the car. I would take the long route when I traveled so that I could listen longer.

Mother Angelica especially had a great impact on me. She was feisty and humble. She made fun of herself. She spoke so gently at times that I couldn't help but lower my defenses and listen. I'm pretty sure I ended up listening to every episode of Mornings With Mother that the station offered.

My conversion took many steps. The progression started as far from Jesus as I could run, to inching closer and closer to him. He became irresistible. Quakerism couldn't satisfy my longing to know Christ, and soon I experimented with various Protestant churches. The problem with Protestantism I found was that I couldn't tell which pastor had the right interpretation of Scripture. In my Pagan days I was the ultimate judge between right and wrong, what was true and what was not. It occurred to me that when I interpreted Scripture myself I was stuck doing the same thing. I knew it was intellectually dishonest to ascribe to the view that something was true because I believed it. I yearned for a capital T Truth that did not rely on my own flimsy whims and selfish judgments. The fact that the Catholic Church did not change its doctrines based on wishy-washy public opinion was appealing because I knew that if I accepted that "truth" was based on the democracy of opinion then it was just as flimsy as it was when I decided it alone.

The importance of Catholic Radio for me relied on the fact that I could listen to it without becoming defensive. When I listened I may not have agreed with everything said, but I never felt like I had to wrack my brain and figure out a retort right away as I would have done if someone had said these things to my face. I could listen and consider the information, form a defense in my mind and then test my side against the other without the fear of being wrong. GRN radio hosts also furnished me with dozens of book recommendations and since I worked at a library it was an easy reach for many of them! As I learned and understood more about Catholicism I found that it had a Truth and depth that that was drawing me in. Many of the teachings were inconvenient (to say the least!), but they were true. I had to be a part of this church.

At the beginning of my GRN journey I was a pro-choice "feminist" with a toe dipped in New-Age practices and unsettled by patriarchal religion. I absorbed the Truth of the Catholic faith slowly. It was a gradual progression built on a lifetime of longing for God and a new hunger for his son, my Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately was glad to exchange my old unhappy notions in exchange for glowing and all-encompassing Truth! I was received into the Church on Easter Vigil of 2012, and my only regret is that I didn't become Catholic sooner!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Divine Mercy

I like to listen to the Texas Nuns on the radio on Wednesdays. They mentioned choosing a saint to inspire them through the year on All Saints Day. I have played with the random saint generator on the Conversion Diary blog. I even chose a saint for the year last January. I have to say, I was a little freaked out by who I got just because she was a patron saint of widows and I am married. I haven't been all that inspired by her this year, although I have kept St. Paula of Rome in mind. St. Paula never seemed very approachable to me. After the death of her husband she abandoned her children to be raised by some relatives so that she could be a desert hermit. Yeah, I'm confused too.

So when the nuns mentioned that they will be choosing a saint on All Saints Day, I was like, "sign me up." For the past couple of years I've been a huge fan of Father Michael Gaitley's books. I checked out Consoling the Heart of Jesus from the library I used to work at on a whim, and was blown away by his gentle writing style and the way he helped me understand Jesus. Now I'm reading The 'One Thing' is Three. I think it must have been Father Gaitley that introduced me to St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy, a message that I most sorely need to understand.

Coming from a Pagan background and not having a relationship with Jesus all my life, I know I have a really imperfect understanding of him at times. When I read the gospels, he sometimes seems a little harsh to me. I know the problem is with my understanding. That, and I'm so unforgiving of myself sometimes that it's hard for me to understand God's forgiveness and mercy. Anyway, I'm hoping that the year with St. Faustina and Divine Mercy will help me truly understand the love of Christ.

My sudden interest in this may be an act of divine providence. The name Faustina keeps coming up in my life. I used to help this single, solitary nun, Sister Faustina at the library. The hubs and I are really good friends with a Catholic couple and when we told them I was pregnant they dubbed the baby Little Faustina. Then I recently found out that Oliver's great grandmother's name was Faustina. My eye is also always drawn to St. Faustina's diary when I go to the Catholic bookstore. Plus when I used to go to St. Joseph's church here in my town the priest is Polish and has a giant picture of Divine Mercy and JPII in the adoration chapel. And all this time I refused to have any particular interest in Saint Faustina. All I saw when I spotted Divine Mercy in My Soul was that it's about 2 inches thick!

But now I hope St. Faustina will be my companion through the year and trust that I will learn to know and love Jesus more through Divine Mercy!

Plus it just might take me a whole year to read Divine Mercy in My Soul.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Zombies and the Thirst for Communion....

...was the name of a Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast that I listened to yesterday.

I've been thinking about participating in this link-up all week, and finally decided to just go ahead and try something new. It was a debate because I sporadically blog here for myself, more like a diary than anything else. It helps me organize my thoughts and think things through in more depth than I otherwise would. My husband is somewhat allergic to talk of religion, so I keep this blog as a little place jot down my little musings that I wouldn't otherwise be able to talk about. It's been just a little personal haven for me. 

The past several months, I have felt God calling me more toward communion with others. I keep receiving these little messages from him. I wrote about it before. So when I received the aforementioned podcast, I took it as one final stiff kick in the rear to go ahead and participate in something resembling communion. Plus the focus of the link-up is about the value of online Catholic community! Alright, God, I get it!

The online Catholic community is ESSENTIAL to me. I read blogs every day and I tell ya, Catholic blogs and twitter really help me feel less lonely in the faith. I go to Mass alone every week with my baby and half the time nobody says a word to me other than, "peace be with you." I don't have a faith connection with my husband. My parents never speak about matters of faith. Seriously, the Internet People are keeping me sane or at least plying me with company in my Catholic craziness and keeping the old brain from getting too dusty. 

Catholic blogs have played a major part in my conversion (looking at you, Mrs. Fulwiler). They have given me a glimpse into what lived Catholicism can look like. They have stretched my imagination and encouraged me to consider perspectives that I may not have encountered otherwise. I think one of the great things about blogs and Catholic radio is that they can both evangelize in a non-threatening way that allows a person to absorb knowledge without feeling defensive.  

Here are some tidbits about me: I'm married and have a little girl, 2 cats, a dog, 5 chickens and a gaggle of dying house plants that I just can't seem to maintain. I live in south Texas. I'm staying at home with the baby at the moment, but before that I worked at a library. I spent some time on the Appalachian Trail in 2008 but only made it 204.5 miles. I have too many crafty hobbies to get really good at any of them. Music-wise I'm super stuck on Sufjan Stevens (all you Christian types should listen to The Transfiguration by him!), River Empires and the Dear Hunter. 

I don't feel like a real blogger, but I have been a journal-keeper for a long time. I used to write on paper until it started to be tedious and too slow. I started out at Open Diary during college, then moseyed on over to Trail Journals at the appropriate time, hopped blogging about crafts and finally came over here for a new slate.

So that's me. Back to you, Catholic Librarian :)